Perform An Unattended Install of MSDE

What is involved?

About 6 months ago I received the Visual Studio Plus Pack, which included the
Windows 2000 Developer’s Readiness Kit and MSDE for Visual Studio. One of the
most interesting links was to the article with instructions for perfoming an
unattended (or silent) installation of MSDE. Although never
having perfomed such an installation before, with the help of the article, I had
prepared and executed a script within the hour.

Now, that’s not to say that there’s nothing to it. As I was preparing this
article, I returned to MSDN to collect information about performing an unattended
install. I was quickly overwhelmed by the amount of information and the seemingly
endless options and command line switches. (Links to some of the more helpful
pages are provided at the end of this article.) Rather than trying to exlain every
possible install option, I’ll simply describe the steps I took to create my first
silent install of MSDE.

The first step is to locate and, if desired, edit the iss file that will describe
all of the installation options you wish to apply. The file
automates a typical install of MSDE and is located in the same
folder as the MSDEx86 executable. A complete explanation of each option is
beyond the scope of this article, but you can read about them in the MSDN article,
SQL/MSDE Unattended Installation Files
Assuming we wish to accept all the
default options, we can proceed to the command line switches required to execute
the setup routine.

Command Line to Execute Unattended Install

The following syntax is used to install MSDE using all of the default installation
settings. You must always indicate the fully qualified path to the .iss file on the
command line. The following text was used to install MSDE on my laptop:

	E:MSDEMSDEx86.exe -s -a -f1 "E:MSDEunattend.iss"

As stated before, there are numerous command line switches that may be applied to the
installation, but only these three were used. Notice the explanation for these as
provided by MSDN:

-s Silent Mode (required for unattended installations, suppresses any installation-related windows or dialogs)
-a Append (passes any subsequent parameters to installation executable after it is unpackaged)
-fl Setup Initialization File (used to pass the path and file name of a setup initialization file)

How to Determine When Unattended SQL 7.0/MSDE 1.0 Setup is Complete

An unattended installation of SQL Server 7.0 or MSDE 1.0 does not provide any graphical
feedback of installation progress or of success or failure. If you want to determine
when an unattended setup has completed or get additional information about the cause
of a failed install you can use the files Sqlstp.log and Setup.log,
which are automatically created in the Windows directory during the setup.


My original idea for this article was to explain the details of the unattended or silent
instalation of MSDE. After examining the fine articles at MSDN, I realized that I would
be doing nothing more than reinventing the wheel, and probably not doing as good a job.

The purpose of this article evolved into that of
    1) showing the reader how simple it is to prepare a simplified installation of MSDE on the client machine
    2) providing resources to customize that installation to meet your particular needs.

Although perhaps not a comprehensive explanation, I hope the above has been helpful.

MSDN Links regarding Unattended Install of MSDE

Technical FAQ – Deploying MSDE Solutions

Technical FAQ – Installing MSDE

PRB: MSDE Unattended Installation Needs Full Path Name of the .iss File

INF: Customizing SQL/MSDE Unattended Installation Files

Deploying Database Solutions

Appendix B: SQL Server 7.0 and MSDE 1.0 System Requirements

Appendix D: Setup-Related Files

Appendix E: Installation Executable Command-Line Parameters

Appendix G: Known Issues Related to Setup and Unattended Installations

See All Articles by Columnist
Danny Lesandrini

Danny Lesandrini
Danny Lesandrini
Danny J. Lesandrini currently works as the IT Director for Pharmatech Oncology Inc. at He holds Microsoft Certifications in Access, Visual Basic and SQL Server and has been programming with Microsoft development tools since 1995.

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